San Diego City Council Member Zapf Unacquainted With Cannabis Science

zapf-readingSeptember 27, 2017

Terrie Best – San Diego Americans for Safe Access

San Diego, CA – As the victory at City Council sinks in and a path to legitimacy will soon exist for San Diego’s cannabis supply chain, it is important to take a look at some of the city council members who made this happen and some of whom obstructed it.

In July, the city staff offered two options for opening zones, beyond retail, for the cannabis industry in the city of San Diego. Option One would have only opened land uses for testing facilities while Option Two proposed zones for also including cultivation and manufacturing. The issue of whether to allow these uses to exist in San Diego was discussed at length at Council on September 11. There were several hours of public comment in the galley and both of the 12th floor rooms were opened to catch overflow crowds.

Chris Ward, District 3

Chris Ward, District 3

Chris Ward of District 3 made the first and only motion to move forward. The motion improved upon Option Two by adjusting the recommended cap on the land uses from 18 to 40 for the entire city, and eliminated the 100-foot barrier between cannabis-related facilities. Eventually the motion will also include odor regulations and additional signage requirements. A second reading of Ward’s motion with these added amendments will be scheduled in the future. The issue of allowing the continuation of retail sales via stand-alone delivery services was referred to the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee.

Before Chris Ward made the motion, he exhibited a better-than-average knowledge of cannabis policy, citing public safety statistics from other states that have already ended prohibition, such as Colorado and Washington.  Ward is an informed member of the City Council who recognizes that the argument on the medical efficacy of cannabis has been put to rest. Ward used government statistics and data collected from state agencies saying he is confident we can protect public safety while opening the cannabis market to patients and adults in San Diego.

Because, remember, it is already illegal to sell or give cannabis to healthy minors. It always has been illegal but most of us – and now apparently some politicians – understand that regulating cannabis is not a straight path to the hands of our children but is actually a way to eliminate diversion to kids. Regulation is a means to ending the “black market.” Curtailing the industry serves to perpetuate it.

To those in the cannabis community who attended the council meeting, it is no secret that Lorie Zapf (representing District 2) not only didn’t like Option 2, she was convinced it was absolutely the wrong path because of the perceived safety issues to the children. It is unclear why regulating cannabis cultivation and processing specifically put youth at risk, as there is no evidence that these business activities either promote violent crime or provide access of cannabis to the underage (below 21) population.

Zapf Scolding her Public

Zapf Scolding her Public

However, Zapf gave a good rant but was interrupted when she referred to the galley as “You people” and, 50 people, shocked, echoed back to her “You PEOPLE?”

Zapf trolled us about how irresponsible we all were in not “doing our research.” She became heated and accused Council Member Ward of “reading headlines” then began to read off headlines.

First, she quoted the Daily Mail’s “Proof Cannabis Does Lead Teens to Harder Drugs” She also told us what her friend in Denver said about kids and ‘pot” and shamed us again, saying those who didn’t oppose Option Two did not care about the children.

Later, a call to James McGuirk in her office distanced Zapf from her “research” saying it was “handed” to her by Scott Chipman. McGuirk referred me to Chipman for the packet of papers Zapf had read from. This was curious since Zapf had made a big show of shaming us, when it turns out she relied on Scott Chipman and his misguided organization “San Diegans for Safe Neighborhoods”, for the research she said SHE had done. UCSD houses the Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR) and Zapf could have called upon actual experts for an expert opinion.

Zapf’s, citations, wherever they came from, were indeed sensational so I re-watched the city’s videotape of the meeting then I listed the headlines she used. Dr. Michelle Sexton is a resident in District 2 who also listened in. Dr. Sexton is an internationally recognized cannabis scientist and clinician. She called Zapf’s office and had better luck getting the articles used in the councilwoman’s comments. She is working on an analysis of the quality of data and will present it to Zapf and Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee.

The first issue related to Zapf’s rhetoric is that the material was, in fact, a collection of eye-grabbing newspaper articles citing studies – what is called “cherry picking” in science.   This means that someone “made selective choices among competing evidence to emphasize results that support a given position, while ignoring or dismissing any findings that do not support it.” Most  of the articles she referenced did not provide a link to an actual study being reported on. So, once  some of the studies the headlines referenced were located, we compared the headlines to the articles for accuracy of reporting.

You may have heard Zapf rattle off that cannabis has been found to “Interrupt Adolescent Brain Development.” According to Dr. Sexton, she was referring to a study on rats that did not use cannabis or even THC, but a much more potent drug that acts at the CB1 receptor. Dr. Sexton explained, “This would not exactly mimic the inhalation of cannabis, pharmacologically.”

Of the seven articles Zapf referenced, – almost half of the papers were actually reporting an association and not causation and the others were rated to be very low on the pyramid of evidence.    This pyramid is what has guided “evidence-based medicine”, the systematic, deliberate, and scientific methodology that aims to improve the overall quality of clinical care and patient outcomes and safety.  We used this pyramid to see how her “evidence” measured up.

Pyramid of evidence placing Zapf studies

Pyramid of evidence placing Zapf studies

Article #1:  “Patterns of cannabis use during adolescence and their association with harmful substance use behaviour: findings from a UK birth cohort”


Pyramid level:  Case series (association not causation)

Article #2: “Chromothripsis and epigenomics complete causality criteria for cannabis- and addiction-connected carcinogenicity, congenital toxicity and heritable genotoxicity”


Pyramid level:  Editorial, expert opinion; In-vitro, Animal Research

Article #3: “Mathematics Proves Correlation To Marijuana As Gateway Drug” Article: (keyword: “Correlation”)

No study was provided

Pyramid Level:  N/A

Article 4: “Study Shows Marijuana Interrupts Adolescent Brain Development”

Pyramid Level:  Animal Study (Rat)

Article 5: “Marijuana Use: Detrimental to Youth”
Article: None


From Dr. Sexton: The American Academy of Pediatrics is promoting the same propaganda that is the result of decades of funded (peer-reviewed, published) research being biased towards evidence of “Harm.”

Pyramid Level:  N/A

Article 6: “Marijuana Uses Increases Violent Behavior”

Pyramid Level:  Cohort Study (association not causation)

Article 7: “Marijuana-related ER visits spike among Colorado teens (A Message from Schwab Advisor Services)”
Study: None found

Pyramid Level:  N/A

It is unfortunate that Zapf limited her “research” to the same old rhetoric of a known prohibitionist before she decided to speak down to her public. Trying to perpetuate this type of worn-out argument to an informed public makes her appear tone-deaf and out-of-step with her constituents.  Did she poll her district on the topic before reciting such rhetoric? Zapf is up for re-election. Can we really afford another disinterested and uninformed city council member? Prohibition is already over!  Vote her Out, District 2.

Lorie Zapf needs to have her feet held to the fire on the topic of cannabis as a member of the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee,  along with Chris Cate (Chair), Barbara Bry (Vice Chair), and Chris Ward.  The committee has been tasked with deliberating on the important topic of “stand-alone delivery” businesses. Her public needs to insure that she does not again try to hijack science in the public forum.

The PSLN meets on the first Wednesday of every month.  They will meet at 2PM on October 4th, please watch for updates to see if the committee picks up the topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *